in the 1940s I visited our state's namesake battleship with my family
because a visiting uncle, E.F. Chartrau, a landlubber from Missouri
who had never before seen an ocean, wanted to view the vessel that
had been "home" for part of WWII
for his daughter Dorothy, an Army nurse. I have made several subsequent
visits, including an inspection as part of an inquiry into the Texas
parks system in 1998. The old lady has had many ups and downs
within that fifty years.
Photo Courtesy Captain Robert L. Sadler, Jr.
|The keel for
the Texas was laid at Newport News Shipbuilding Company in
1911; she was christened on May 18, 1912 and commissioned on
March 12, 1914. A previous vessel with that name was rechristened
the San Marcos so Texas could be used by the newer,
The Texas served in the Atlantic fleet in WWI
and was present at the surrender of the German Imperial Fleet in 1918.
After the war she was refitted from steam to oil-fired burners and
in 1927 became flagship for the fleet. During WWII,
the Texas was engaged in escort duty in the North Atlantic;
supported Allied landings in North Africa; served as flagship for
the bombardment group for landings on Omaha Beach on D-Day,
June 6, 1944, when the Allies invaded France in Normandy; then
shifted to the Pacific Theater to support landings on Iwo Jima and
Okinawa; and was present when the US reoccupied the Philippines. Worn
out from the war, the Texas became the first memorial battleship
and historic landmark, which is a polite way to say that the Navy
no longer needed her and shifted responsibility for the old girl to
the State of Texas. Governor Coke Stevens accepted the Texas
in 1946, though she remained a commissioned vessel until 1948.
The Battleship Texas Commission installed their ship in a berth at
Jacinto State Park in the Ship Channel near Houston.
There she rested, and deteriorated, until custody was transferred
to Texas Parks & Wildlife.
TP&W inherited a property damaged by years of neglect and mistakes.
By then the Texas had settled on the bottom of its mooring,
concrete had been poured across its deck, and rust was pervasive and
winning. In 1988 the ship was refloated and towed to the Todd Shipyard
Steel plating was replaced, anti-aircraft guns remounted, necessary
structural repairs made, and she was repainted a camouflage blue before
she was returned to her home in the ship channel. There work continues
to restore compartments to their WWII
status so visitors may see what it was like, back then.
All Things Historical
(Archie P. McDonald is Director of the East Texas Historical Association
and author or editor of over 20 books on Texas)
22 miles East of downtown Houston
via Hwy 225 and 134
Hours: Open daily 9AM - 5PM
Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day